Fixture: Willem II v Ajax
Pick: Over 3 Goals @ 2.01 7/10
This can be considered more of a bet on Ajax than the over 3 to be honoust. To quote a piece I've written about their championship chances: "Ajax has a new coach with legend Marco van Basten, who will also be accompanied by many former class players on the training pitch, with the likes of Frank de Boer, John van het Schip and Dennis Bergkamp to name a few. The athmosphere at the club seems solid, with unhappy players as Colin and Perez leaving or on their way to leave and Heitinga being the only real important transfer going out. Replacement of Heitinga if Barcelona's Oleguer, who is looking rock solid in the friendlies. Combine this with the addition of last season's revelation Sulejmani (Heerenveen), Argentine Clausura's top striker Cvitanich and PSV's creative talent Aissati and you have a great attacking squad with loads of depth and creativity. Many young players (Anita in defense, de Jong, van der Heijden and Sarpong in the midfield) are on the brink of a real breaktrhough (De Jong played a lot last year already) and Ajax has the best squad by far if you ask me. Last year they gave it away due to bad decisions by interim coach Koster, combined with some bad defending. I expect this to improve a lot with a more realistic van BAsten. The Ajax attack will prove the difference this year, with great creativity always ready to decide the match."
The quality Ajax has is just superior to Willem II. With Baelum and especially van der Struijk they lost two important players, and the players replacing them are okay, but nothing special. Most matches between Willem II and Ajax ended in big wins for the visitors, but last season was a more narrow affair with 2-3 (and an easy 4-1 win at home for Ajax). Willem II will be without Vorthoren and Ajax without Donald. No important absentees.
Fixture: AZ Alkmaar v NAC Breda
Pick: AZ Alkmaar -0.5 @ 1.8 5/10
NAC was the biggest surprise in the last season, ending 3rd in the rankings, but in the end failing in the play-offs, leaving them now empty handed. At this time, they have a new coach with Maaskant, and the two succescoaches have left, leaving a big question mark as to where they stand now. There were no big signings, except maybe Reuser, but he doesnt seem fit enough to play entire matches anymore on this level. In the meanwhile, they lost key player Molhoek, a vital miss on their midfield. Key players de Graaff and Elshot are also still injured, while squad player Loran is out as well.
AZ is quite the opposite of NAC, using an attacking playing style instead of a defensive one, and underperforming last season instead of overperforming. Experienced coach van Gaal is still there and except for defender Opdam, no important players have left the club. AZ was troubled by injuries last season but now they are all back, giving the side several new and free signings as the way coach van Gaal stated. Captain Schaars was out for an entire season, while key midfielder Martens was only able to play 8 matches as well due to injuries. Combine this with the return of talented central defender Luirink, who also missed the entire season and Cziommer who is fit now and there is a big quality boost. Talented youngsters Luickx and especially Lens (who will miss this match) also returned from loan and with Moisander, Swerts and especially Holman, the club has made some usefull signings with hard working players, something the team maybe was lacking. Nice thing for them as well is the great form of goalkeeper Romero, who was Argentina's goalkeeper at the Olympics after an injury of Ustari and won a gold medal. Belgium's Dembele also had a great tournament there, while striker Ari had a great preseason with AZ.
AZ is superior and if they come anywhere near the level they are supposed to, they should beat NAC here. The signs are looking good for them, and a home win is on the cards here.
Fixture: Heracles Almelo v Feyenoord
Pick: Heracles Almelo +0.5 @ 2.02 5/10
Feyenoord can be considered as one of the teams with the worst preseason. Especially their run in the end is terrible, with losses to Celtic and Dortmund at home for their own tournament, and a draw against Konyaspor and even losses to Barendrecht and Benfica. The Rotterdam side have been struggling with a huge list of injuries, leaving them with no chance in the Dutch Supercup as well, losing 2-0 to PSV. For this match, they will be without big new signing El Ahmadi, key player Makaay and important players Vlaar, Lucius and also without Erasmus and Slory. With Hofs and key players Tomasson and de Guzman also being doubtful, their attack if almost non existent and the rest of their squad is far from impressive as well.
Heracles is always a tough team on their own artificial pitch, losing just 6 times at home last season. Feyenoord has played in Almelo 3 times, winning only the first time and losing 4-1 a year later. Last season things ended with a spectacular 3-3 draw. Heracles only played 6 matches in their preseason, which is rather surprising. The team is hard to read because of this, since most matches were against amateurs and with mixed results as well. Heracles however is a team that just lives up to the moment, especially at home in front of their loyal crowd. As said, they are very hard to beat, and especially a side with that many absentees and the lack of confidence as Feyenoord is enjoying at the moment, will have a hard time. With Maas, Lakic and Garcia Heracles lost some good players, but I still like the looks of their team and they should be able to avoid relegation once again. New signing Fledderus is out injured, and important defender Boakye as well. For the rest they are pretty much complete.
Fixture: Cambuur v FC Emmen
Pick: Cambuur -0.5 @ 2.01 5/10
As said so many times already, Cambuur is revived this year, with many big signings and results living up to they expectations as well, with wins at Veendam, at home against VVV and a loss against Zwolle, who are a championship candidate. The side has been looking good in these matches and are now with two extra key players as well, with Mboua returning from the Olympics and midfielder Beekmans being back from a suspension. Striker de Vries was also signed this week, but it is unsure if he is allowed to play Friday.
This is their probable line-up:
Today they play Emmen, a side with great signings as well, and even better results on paper, with 7 points out of 3 matches. Their schedule however was easier than Cambuur's, and their play hasn't been looking too convincing, with a stolen win in Sittard where the home side actually was better, a mediocre draw at home to Helmond and again a lucky win against Dordrecht. Emmen will probably play with the same line up as last week.
A packed Cambuur stadium is expected once again, and this is known to give them a huge boost. With the quality and form they have, they should be able to overcome Emmen here, who are still looking to improve their standard of play.